The Story of Gitxon

The following history is the adaawak of Gitxon of Gitlaxdzawks. In 1924, Marius Barbeau interviewed Samuel Wise, Sim'oogit Gitxon in Port Essington.

The Story of Gitxon

    When the people were living all together at a Haida village, they owned a fishing pool where they would go to catch trout. One time, three young men fished trout in the pool. After they had caught some fish, they prepared to roast them. They built a fire at the edge of the water. Once the fish were roasted and ready to eat, they took one and placed it on a skunk cabbage leaf. No sooner had they begun their meal than a frog leaped upon the leaf and started to eat it. They threw the rest of the fish away. They placed the next fish on a leaf and were ready to resume their meal when another frog jumped upon it. Again they threw the fish away and took up the last that they had roasted. They were about to partake of it when another frog spoiled it for them. Angry at the frog, they threw it into the fire, as they had already done with the others.

    Then they boarded their canoe and started to paddle away from the pool. After they had gone some distance, a voice called them, singing mournfully, "you'll shall not go very far before the man in the bow of the canoe drops dead." Shortly after, the voice resumed singing, "When you have travelled a while after the man at the bow has died, the man in the centre shall also die. When the last man, at the stern, reaches home and has finished telling the people at the village about what has happened, he shall die too."

    Before they had proceeded very far, the first man actually died as predicted. When they reached half-way to the village, the centre man dropped dead. As soon as the last survivor had reached home, the people came down to meet him. They asked him what had happened to his companions. At first he refused to tell, knowing that he would no sooner finish speaking that the same thing would befall him. The people pressed him and he had to explain. Then he dropped dead.

    During the next night, while the tribe was asleep, a huge fire ball, much like lightning, struck at the houses and the village burst into flames. The people were destroyed by the fire. Only a young girl, one of the head princesses, was saved. Having just reached they age of young womanhood, she was camping out secluded in an underground hut, surrounded by copper shields. When her time to come out had arrived, she found out that the village had burned and that every house had been razed to the ground. An old woman came toward the village, crying. On her head was a hat of the Haida type. On its top and all around its brim were frogs. On her cane were human-like faces and the carving at the top was a large frog. She intoned a dirge, the Frog dirge.

    A canoe then approached the site of the former village. In it sat three people. One of them was a Haida chief on a hunting trip. Finding out that the village had disappeared, he stepped ashore to make sure of what he had already observed from a distance. He found the young woman in hiding within the underground hut. He brought her to the canoe and took her to his home village. Later he married her and she had several children.

    One day, as her children were mingling with others of the same age, they were taunted and they learned that this was not the village of their mother. They were foreigners here. This disclosure of her secret to her children made their mother unhappy. She called her family together and here is what happened.
    After the young woman (from the village destroyed by the fireball) had married the Haida chief, the people captured an eagle and tamed it. Above its talons they had put copper bracelets as ornaments. The eagle would sail away for one or two days and then come back to its adopted home. But one day it flew away and never returned. The children who had been taunted, regretted the loss of their pet. Because of the taunt their mother decided to go away with them. Before departing, they sang a hunting song: Hawhihoho... and they paddled away while singing this dirge. Yaehalawiyaw...

    While they were still singing their mournful song out on the waters, they saw a thick fog dropping over them. Then they intoned another dirge while weeping, for they were lost at sea. Before they had finished, an eagle swooped down and alighted in their canoe. They recognized the copper bands at its feet and knew that their pet had come back to guide them, for it looked in one direction. After they had paddled a long time, they beheld land ahead. The eagle then flew away. They became aware that they had come to Gitamaat, south of Skeena River. There they landed and travelled on foot northwards to the Skeena.

    That is why the Gitlaxdzawks tribe of the Gitselasu (Kitselas) Canyon claim that the land about Gitamat (Kitamaat) is their individual property and hunting ground. Their rights have been acknowledged by the Gitamat (Kitamaat) tribe.

    In order to understand the history the story must be interpreted. This story describes the Haida origin of the name Gitxon and the fact they migrated from Haida Gwaii to Kitselas Canyon via Kitamaat. This story also explains why this Eagle group has its territory in the Kitimat Valley area.